Most trips on the San Juan River are multi-day trips, but some outfitters do have regular trips that run on the San Juan from Bluff to Mexican Hat. Other outfitters offer one-day trips only on request. The stretch for one-day trips is 27-miles long, and has mild rapids. However the random sand waves add thrills to any trip. Most guides take inflatable kayaks along, which increases the excitement as individuals paddle their own vessels.
Multi-day trips down the San Juan can last anywhere from two to seven days. Perhaps the best feature of San Juan trips is that the trips are largely customizable, based on the interests of the group. Select the trip length in advance. Other variable features include use of inflatable kayaks, the river itself (which changes significantly due to the ever-present sand waves), hikes taken, and trip "focus." This region of the American Southwest is truly unique - the geology, Native American legacy, fossils, and vistas, are incredible. Guides are prepared to share their wealth of knowledge with travelers. If you're curious about something...just ask! You'll be amazed at what you can learn here! Spend the evenings camping alongside the river; you'll feel like an early explorer in the rugged landscape. Meals are provided; camping equipment may or may not be included in trip cost. Inquire for details.
This is an excellent trip for families! The general calm nature of the river makes it a great trip for families with young children (check with individual guide companies for specific age-related restrictions). Older children and teenagers also love the San Juan River because they can paddle their own inflatable kayak over much of the trek. These smaller boats often feel the rapids with greater intensity than the larger rafts. The San Juan can be a great experience for all ages and ability levels.
The San Juan is especially appealing to groups because there is so much flexibility available...from time on the river, to number of hikes, and guide knowledge, the experience is nearly customizable. Consult with your selected guide company for details.
Groups are usually limited to 20 people on oar/paddle boats, or 28 people on motorized boats.
Educational groups, or groups just wanting a trip with an educational focus will especially enjoy the San Juan. Rafting down the San Juan River permits travelers to view petroglyphs, ancient Anasazi dwellings, fossils, brilliant red rock walls, and much more. It is a science wonder!
The San Juan River provides meandering water and lively currents. Because the river drops a gentle eight feet per mile, there are few rapids, though there are some Class II and III rapids that provide splashy good fun. However, sand waves, a relatively rare phenomenon, add surprises and fun along this otherwise calm river.
Sand waves are caused by the water's movement against the silted river bottom. They can suddenly build in the middle of a section of flat water, and then disappear just as quickly. Sand waves can form huge rippling waves up to eight feet high! They give a fun and certainly exciting ride.
Most river trips on the San Juan begin near the town of Bluff, Utah and Sand Island, and continue through an ever-changing landscape of canyons and floodplains. Rafters will pass through the famous Butler Wash petroglyph panel, which features one of the largest concentrations of rock art in the Southwest. Cliff dwellings are accessible by short hikes from the river. Modern-day explorers may find fossils, see wildlife and wildflowers on these trips. The river is perfect for swimming during the summer months.
The Navajo Reservation is located to the south of the river. The lore of the river includes stories about the Navajo people as well as explorers, prospectors and hardy Mormon pioneers.